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posted: 7/13/2012 2:05 AM

Super handyman: Ladder safety not a laughing matter

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Slapstick comedy can make ladder misuse hilarious! But proper use of a ladder is really important and not a laughing matter. Here are some tips you should follow to make sure you don't get hurt.

Your ladder should be in good shape. If it is bent, broken or damaged in any other way, it probably needs to be replaced.

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Use the ladder properly. If it is a stepladder, then pull out the back and snap the hinges into place. If you are using an extension ladder, make sure to lock each side before climbing up. The feet of every ladder need to be placed securely on solid, level ground. You also can set each foot into a shallow can. This spreads out the weight of the foot and helps with stability, and it works well in loose soil. You can drive a nail through the bottom of the can so that the nail goes into the soil to create an even more stable base.

Never use the top step of a ladder as a place to stand. It's not made for that, and doing this can cause the ladder to tip over quite easily.

You can secure a C-clamp to the side of a ladder to act as a handle, or just install a screen-door handle there. It will give you something to hold on to if you need it. It also might help in toting the ladder around when you are moving it.

Keep in mind that an extension ladder should be placed approximately a quarter of the total length of the ladder height away from the wall to maintain proper balance and strength.

Have a safe summer!

Masking tape helps keep walls neat when decorating

When you are planning to make some holes in a wall to hang framed pictures or shelves, you'll probably need to make marks to note the location of the studs, a level line and where you need to screw or drill. All of these things can be done with a lot less mess if you apply some masking tape to the areas first. Then you can make your marks on that and just peel it off when you have finished. You can drill and screw right through it, too, and it will help you get a cleaner hole for installations. The masking tape will come off cleanly and leave behind no marks to be removed later.

How to preserve your wallpaper when decorating the walls

Hanging things on a wall isn't very difficult, but you need to use some extra care when that wall has been covered with wallpaper. If your wallpaper has a pattern, then carefully use an X-Acto knife to cut along the pattern lines to create a little "door" that you can gently pull open. Then you can mount your hardware directly on the wall. When you are ready to remove the picture hanger or other hardware, you can put a little wallpaper paste on the inside of the "door" and press it back into place.

Super hints

• An empty tissue box is a great place to store a good supply of those plastic grocery bags we all end up with.

• I love the vacuum-seal bags to store blankets, clothes and my knitting supplies in. But I have found that you can do the same thing with a heavy-duty trash bag. Just put your blankets inside and use your vacuum to suck out all the air. Then quickly tie or bind the end to prevent air from getting back in.

• A scrap of large-diameter PVC pipe can be cut into shorter lengths and glued between wall studs to hold a variety of smaller pipes, wooden trim or tools.

Q. We cleaned out our fireplace but still have some spots that seem waxy on the floor of it. I think they are from using the quick-start logs. I like them, but if they are causing these stains, maybe we shouldn't use them. How can we clean up the stains?

A. Try to dilute the wax with mineral spirits paint thinner. Cover the spill with clay cat litter to absorb it all. Then sweep it up. Make sure, if you use these logs, that you clean up after them at the end of the season using this method, and you should be fine.

Q. I have an old brass lamp that is quite tarnished. I'd like to find out the best way to bring back the shine and keep it protected. What can I do?

A. Most decorative brass is coated with a sealer of some type to prevent tarnishing. Clean it really well with a brass cleaner, which you probably can get at the grocery store. Then apply a clear polyurethane coating to keep it from tarnishing again. That ought to take care of it.

Reader tips

• I plant a big garden every year. I don't use tags most of the time, because they just get lost or fade. This year, my wife made me some good ones made from wooden stir sticks from the paint store and then stapled the plastic plant tags to these. They are at the end of each row, and they are still looking good, even after several months in the weather.

• As a tennis player, I use a wrap around the handle of my racket. When I have one left over that is still in good shape, I try to use it on the handle of one of my yard tools, my mower or my fertilizer spreader. It makes them more comfortable to use. Try them when you get a chance. Even if you don't play tennis, you can buy these and put them on your tools really easily. I think it would work on a hammer handle, too.

• My wife reorganized her kitchen drawers and gave me the old plastic inserts that she used for separating the flatware and other kitchen items. They are really great in the workshop. I can put hardware and tools into these compartments, and it makes them easier to find when I'm working on a repair project. I also can take them out of the drawer and carry the whole box to the workbench when I'm not sure what I will need in advance. They stack pretty well when I'm leaving them on my bench, too. I don't know why they don't make these for the shop, because they sure are handy.

• We use our old refrigerator in the game room. It's a small unit, and we keep it full of all the treats we like to have during a game or when the gang's over. It looked out of place with the white finish, so we covered it with team decals. We bought a ton of them and just covered the whole thing. It looks great, and everyone wants to look for their favorite team logo.

• I have a rotary tool that I use for all sorts of projects. Throughout the years, my collection of bits and accessories has grown, and it no longer fits in the original box. I bought a small tackle box for all of this, and now everything has space to be stored and organized, so it's easy to find just what I need. The extra room comes in handy!

Shoptalk

• Summer is a great time of year, but in many parts of the country, it is humid, and this can bring on mildew problems. Mildew not only is smelly and ugly, but it can ruin walls, carpeting and just about any surface it gets on. We've put together a pamphlet called "Mildew Around Your House," and it is full of tips on how to get rid of mildew.

• Power washers are great for cleaning a wide variety of surfaces, but the bigger the surface, the longer you have to work. Sprayglide Deck and Back Saver can help make the job less tedious. It attaches to the spray wand of most power washers and glides over the deck or walkway to give you a hand. It holds the sprayer at just the right, consistent position to make it an easier task. It pivots for the best maneuverability, and is easily adjustable. Check it out and find out more, as well as a local supplier, at www.sprayglide.com.

• Anyone with a yard knows that pruning is just part of the game. But Fiskars' latest line of hand pruners makes the task much easier. All have the GripEase design for maximum pressure as well as superior control. They are designed to be strong, last a long time and reduce fatigue during extended use. Look for them at your garden center and find out more, as well as get great pruning tips, at www.fiskars.com.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at thesuperhandyman.com.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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